Himalayan Art Resources

Painting Set: Direction Kings (Palpung)

Direction Kings (Palpung Monastery) | Four Guardian Kings Main Page | Arhat Main Page | Palpung Painting Style | Terminology & Classification of Style Names

The images below depict three of the Four Guardian Kings. The whereabouts of the fourth king is not known. It is also most probable that the Four Kings were part of a larger set of twenty-three paintings depicting the twenty-five figures of Buddha Shakyamuni, together with the two foremost disciples - Shariputra and Maudgalyayana, the sixteen Arhats, the attendant Dharmata, the patron Hvashang. Including the Four Kings there are twenty-three compositions. The two foremost disciples are almost always depicted standing to the right and left sides of the Buddha.

What is particularly unique about these Guardian King figures is their appearance. They are in Peaceful Appearance rather than King Appearance. The latter is the standard Tibetan and Chinese manner of depicting the kings. This new way of presenting the Four Kings as peaceful deities was promoted by Situ Panchen Chokyi Jungne (1700-1774). Chokyi Jungne believed that the kings should be presented as in the classical Indian style as heavenly gods rather than as mature, richly attired, stout soldiers. The artists at Palpung Monastery and later artists of the style were not always consistent in adopting this Chokyi Jungne style of depiction. Many of the artists of Palpung style, and the greater Khamdri style, still depict the Four Guardians in the traditional King Appearance even up to the present time. (See the Eleven Figurative Forms in Himalayan Style Art).

See a set of three paintings depicting Shakyamuni Buddha and the Sixteen Arhats following the Palpung Painting Style.

Other Examples of Peaceful Kings: HAR #19, A Set of Three, #91066.

Jeff Watt [updated 9-2014]